Geneseo grad films Civil War documentary
For budding filmmaker Phil Cathoir, a 120-mile trek by Civil War reenactors was the perfect subject for a documentary.
Cathoir, a 2002 Geneseo graduate, and his film partner Logan Akers, are in the process of putting the final touches on their film “Pride, Honor, Dedication & Sore Feet - 120 Miles to Gettysburg.”
“We’re not quite finished yet, but we’re hoping by the end of June to have it pretty close to being done. We plan to send it out to smaller film festivals by mid-July,” said Cathoir, who currently lives in Carbondale.
“Pride, Honor, Dedication & Sore Feet - 120 Miles to Gettysburg” started when Cathoir traveled to the East Coast to visit his friend and fellow Geneseo graduate Eric Wilson.
“Eric has always been into Civil War reenacting, and he’s tried to get me to do it for awhile, but I’ve never had time,”?said Cathoir.
“Last summer, I had some time off, so I decided to travel (to the East Coast) to see some of the stuff the reenactors do,” he said.
Every five years, Civil War reenactors converge on the battlefield at Gettysburg to re-create that most-famous Civil War battle.
A group of reenactors, including Wilson, go a step further than just reenacting the battle. “For the second time, a group of reenactors follow the Sixth Corps’ march to Gettysburg,” said Cathoir.
In period gear, the group travels on foot 120 miles from Fairfax, Va., to Gettysburg,? Penn., before marching onto the battlefield. The march takes place at the end of June/beginning of July.
“I learned about the march about a month beforehand, so we scraped together some money, grabbed a camera and said, ‘Let’s see what we can get,’” explained Cathoir.
He and Akers, who met in film school at Southern Illinois University, were able to travel the entire route with the Sixth Corps marchers.
“It was the fact that we got to go with them the entire way that made it so neat,” said Cathoir.
“Most people have an idea of what a reenacted battle looks like, but not many people get to see the life of reenacting outside the battle. A big part of what they actually do is try and bring knowledge to people about the war.”
As the small group of reenactors marched toward Gettysburg, they’d stop along the way to explain to civilians the history of the march and what they were doing.
“We were able to film their daily lives on the march. We saw them hanging out around the camp fire and interacting with those who’d stop to talk with them. It was a very human aspect of reenacting,” Cathoir explained.
“We were also able to see the hardships they faced. Marching 120 miles on paved roads in shoes that are modeled after those made 150 years ago is tough,” he said. “The reenactors struggled, but they kept their heads up and kept going. It was a great experience, and we really were able to bond with them.”
Though Cathoir and Akers walked with the group for part of the way, they also followed the reenactors in a vehicle. “We had so much equipment to haul, we weren’t able to walk the entire way. But it worked out, because we were able to carry water for the reenactors.”
The filmmakers shot 28 hours of footage, but Cathoir said the experience “wasn’t like working at all.”
“It was more like we were camping out and spending time forming friendships,” he said.
“Pride, Honor, Dedication & Sore Feet - 120 Miles to Gettysburg” is the first documentary Cathoir and Akers have made. “Both of us usually stick to narratives, where we write a script and film it.
We’ve both made short films and such, but this is the first major project for us.”
Creating a documentary has been a learning lesson for the duo. “Narrative films are a lot more structured. You know what you’re going to be filming and what you’re going to be editing. With a documentary, you don’t know what’s going to happen. You just keep the camera on and try to catch everything.
“The editing process is much more complex than we ever thought. We’re sifting through 28 hours of footage trying to get it down to an hour-and-a-half. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t want to cut that we know we’re going to have to cut,” he said.
Cathoir and Akers recently released a trailer for the film online. “The trailer’s only been available for a couple of weeks, and so far the only people who’ve watched it have been mostly family and friends.”
By submitting the film to smaller film festivals, Cathoir said the ultimate goal is to have the documentary picked up by a distribution company.
“We really want to spread the word about this march, also,” he said. “If we ever actually make any money from this film, we’d like donate some to the preservation societies that help preserve the Civil War battlefields,” he said.
The 2008 Sixth Corps’ march to Gettysburg had approximately 12 participants, and Cathoir said organizers would like to see that number increase each time the march is held.
For more information on the Sixth Corps’ march, visit www.dougdobbs.com.
To view the trailer for “Pride, Honor, Dedication &?Sore Feet - 120 Miles to Gettysburg” click here.